Ministers binge at public expense every
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
At least 29 ministers draw the monthly
housing rent allowance of Rs 100,000 paid to
ministers of cabinet, non cabinet and deputy
ranks with the majority of them nevertheless
holding private residences in Colombo.
The allowance is paid to ministers of all
ranks who do not possess a private home in
Colombo to facilitate their stay in Colombo.
According to a series of oral questions
answered in parliament, out of the 29
ministers who do claim the allowance, around
25 have their own private residences within
the District of Colombo.
At least two such ministers not only obtain
the allowance while having a Colombo
residence but also maintain a flat each at
the Madiwela MPs Housing Complex.
Besides, there are at least two lavish
spending ministers who are occupying lavish
luxury apartments with government money -
one at Park Residences, Colombo 5 and
another at Park Residencies, Colombo 2.
Besides the above allocation, these
ministers have their entire electricity and
water bills footed by their respective
According to The Sunday Leader
investigations, the Public Administration
Ministry has spent over Rs. 1.3 million to
renovate the official residence of Transport
Minister Dulles Alahapperuma including some
special fittings, in the year 2006.
According to answers submitted to parliament
during oral question time, Alahapperuma's
monthly electricity bills between September
and December 2007 have been in the range of
Rs.13, 000 to 36,000.
Likewise, Minister of Constitutional Affairs
and National Integration, D.E.W. Gunasekara
who receives a monthly house rent of Rs.
100,000 has received Rs. 24.6 million
collectively as house rent between June 2004
to December 2007.
Besides, Minister Gunasekera's residence had
a power generator installed at the cost of
Rs. 1.75 million, according to parliament
Fisheries Minister Felix Perera is another
UPFA cabinet member who has incurred huge
expenditure when his official residence was
renovated in 2006 at a cost of Rs. 1.6
million. A year later, another Rs. 2.4
million had been incurred for renovations.
According to information revealed to the
House, Minister Felix Perera's total
electricity bill in 2007 had been a
staggering Rs. 1.39 million while his water
bill for the period was Rs. 88,000.
Meanwhile, Minister of Water Supply and
Drainage A.L.M. Athaulla has run up
electricity bills ranging from Rs. 13,000 to
Rs. 36,000 during the period of September to
TMVP vows not to disarm
The TMVP last week said it will continue to
carry arms as threats by the LTTE were still
The Tigers had recently attacked several
offices and camps of the TMVP in Chenkalady
TMVP Spokesperson K. Iniyabharathi told The
Sunday Leader that the recent incidents in
the east would not create an impact on the
TMVP's stance and said that the reason for
the party to continue to be armed was due to
the threats by the Tigers.
"The recent incidents in the east are not
the reasons for the TMVP to carry arms. The
TMVP is carrying arms for its own security.
The party is threatened by the LTTE. There
are no other threats. Therefore, we will
continue to carry arms until the LTTE lays
down its arms or is completely destroyed,"
"When we look at the recent incidents, the
attacks have been carried out against the
civilians. It is not clear as to who is
carrying out the killings."
The TMVP had continuously stated that the
LTTE was present in the east. Though the
party said that the LTTE was functioning in
small groups within the jungles, it had
reiterated that there was no chance for the
TMVP to disarm.
Lanka may face intl.
By Paneetha Ameresekere
existing international credit lines may be
suspended and even if it could source credit
internationally, it might be at a premium,
the local head of a credit rating agency
told The Sunday Leader in light of Friday's
Supreme Court (SC) interim order against oil
The SC suspended the state owned Ceylon
Petroleum Corporation (CPC) from making
hedge payments on contracts with banks on a
Fundamental Rights (FR) plea. Head of Fitch
Rating Lanka, Chanaka Wickramasuriya said
that in the light of Friday's court order,
there is a possibility of credit lines
drying up, particularly to the CPC whose
operations depend heavily on seeking
international credit from commercial
markets, or the premiums charged being
raised, essentially raising CPC's borrowing
Wickramasuriya however contended that even
if the SC ultimately cancelled CPC's hedge
payment contracts, it could not be construed
as a payment default as that would be the
result of an action of an independent
entity, namely the courts.
But creditors then may think twice before
giving any money, as there would be a doubt
whether the borrower, particularly if it is
a state agency would be legally bound to
honour such contracts in the light of those
developments, he said.
Wickramasuriya however said that his
headoffice in London had informed him that
London does not consider the SC Interim
Order as a sovereign default.
"It's construed as a dispute between two
parties, the petitioner and the CPC by
Fitch," he said. An interim injunction does
not mean the cancellation of CPC's hedging
obligations. It merely gives the SC time to
study the case in detail and also for the
CPC to file its objections, said
Fitch is a London based international rating
agency. It has given
a 'B Plus' Sovereign Rating.
"B ratings are essentially the bottom of the
rung ratings for a country," said
Wickramasuriya. It means that if Sri Lanka
is to source credit from international
markets, it will be at a premium, at some
15-20%, made worse by the current global
credit crunch, he said.
However, CPC indirectly obtains credit from
some Singaporean banks through the state
owned Bank of Ceylon (BoC) at a much lower
rate, at LIBOR plus 4-5%, probably because
those are revolving funds of around US$ 500
million, he said. LIBOR currently is around
2+%, he said.
Meanwhile, a CPC source speaking on the
grounds of anonymity said that CPC directly
maintains accounts with People's Bank, BoC,
as well as with the three foreign banks with
with which it has also entered into hedging
contracts, namely Deutsche Bank, Standard
Chartered Bank and Citi Bank.
In the light of Friday's interim order, he
was unsure of the fate of those facilities
with those international banks.
However, a banking source speaking on the
grounds of anonymity said that the
suspension order won't affect the facility
that they had provided to CPC. The court has
given the Monetary Authority time to go into
the matter, until such time his bank has not
thought of taking any action, the source
Meanwhile, a stock market source speaking on
the grounds of anonymity said that even
before Friday's interim injunction
foreigners were pulling out of the bourse.
"This would only make it worse," he said.
The source further said that hedging was
well and good when the CPC was saving money,
now the problem has arisen because they are
losing money, he said.
President off to
Italy, Turkey with large delegation
President Mahinda Rajapakse left for Italy
and Turkey yesterday on board a special
SriLankan Airlines flight.
The Sunday Leader learns in the first leg of
the tour which will be to Rome, President
Rajapakse and the First Lady Shiranthi
Rajapakse will meet with Pope Benedict XVI.
Informed sources said the visit to
will not include any official engagements
with the political leadership of Italy.
However the visit to Turkey which will
follow is an official State visit. It is
learned the number in the Presidential
entourage will be about 50 including the
ladies in waiting.
The Sunday Leader also learns Foreign
Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has included 10
persons into the delegation, most of whom
will travel commercial. Informed sources
said Secretary, Foreign Affairs Ministry,
Palitha Kohona had pulled out of the visit
at the last moment after it was indicated
his presence will not be necessary. These
sources said monies for the two visits have
already been sent to the Sri Lankan
Embassies in Italy and Israel (which covers
Turkey) based on loose estimates given by
A top source said despite intensive
lobbying, meetings with the Italian
President and Prime Minister have been
denied for the second successive time-after
the last visit to the FAO conference in
It is learned the Sri Lankan Embassy in
France thereafter sought a meeting for the
President with the President of France but
that too was not forthcoming.
These sources said the meeting with the Pope
was due to the efforts of Bishop Malcolm
Ranjith who is occupying a senior post under
the Pope .
It is learned the Bishop has advised the
President to tone down the Government's
message after a 'bull in the china shop'
approach by Sri Lanka's Ambassador to Italy,
A top Foreign Ministry source said the
protocol and the delegates for both visits
were finalised by President's Co-Ordinating
Secretary Sajin Vass Gunawardene. It is also
learned agendas for both visits are still
The Sunday Leader learns the final cost for
the visit including board, lodging,
security, cars, special planes, commercial
tickets and special entertainment costs for
ambassadors could be in the region of US$ 1
The President however had expressed
displeasure before departure over the
failure of Sri Lanka's Ambassadors in Italy
and France to obtain appointments with the
respective Heads of State.
"Arun dennagen kisi wedak nanay, " (Those
two fellows are useless) the President had
With reference to the appointment with the
Pope the President had said, "ara bishopta
pin sidda wenna thamai paap wahanse balanna
labenne". ( Thanks to the Bishop we will get
to meet the Pope)
The President had also made references to
the entourage of Minister Bogollagama
stating, "sure ekata amathiya minihage rala
kohoma hari geniyanawa . "
(Minister will for sure take his gang)
Fowzie won't resign
Petroleum and Petroleum Resources
Development Minister A.H.M. Fowzie will not
resign from his cabinet portfolio following
the Supreme Court order in the oil hedging
case The Sunday Leader learns.
A source close to Minister Fowzie said the
President was free to remove the Minister
but that he will not quit.
Passing severe strictures on Minister Fowzie
for his role in the controversial oil
hedging deal and for justifying the conduct
of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Chairman
Asantha De Mel, the Supreme Court on Friday
called upon the President to take over the
Petroleum Ministry and appoint a suitable
minister in terms of Article 44 of the
Informed sources said Fowzie however will
not resign but wait for the President to
remove him and decide a course of action
based on the President's decision.
" If the President does not remove Minister
Fowzie he will continue in office," a source
close to the Minister said adding it is an
issue the President will have to resolve
with the Supreme Court. The decision of
Fowzie not to quit also followed earlier
rumours in the political grapevine that
Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse
was keen to take the portfolio away from
Fowzie which the President was reluctant to
do fearing serious political consequences.
" All this speculation will be laid to rest
if the President does not remove Minister
Fowzie," this source said.
It is learned that Minister Fowzie will not
accept any other portfolio but occupy the
back bench if the President sacks him in
terms of the Supreme Court order.
Fear stalks Batti with 16
murders in two weeks
Fear was stalking Batticaloa last week after
at least 16 killings were reported in the
last fortnight with elected local government
officials going on strike against the
Members of the pradeshiya sabhas held a
token strike to oppose the killing spree in
Batticaloa, besieged Eastern Province Chief
Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan said.
"We vehemently condemn the killings. There
is a perception that we (TMVP) are also
involved in the killing spree. It is not
true. Therefore, it was decided that the
local government members should protest
against the killing," Chandrakanthan told
The Sunday Leader.
Chandrakanthan added that he had met with
Defence Ministry officials and had
discussions on this issue. "It is the
responsibility of the defence officials to
make sure that these incidents do not
happen. Whoever is carrying out the murders,
they are killing families."
"It is more important to stop these killings
than to think of who is doing this.
Therefore, we say that the defence
authorities should take immediate steps to
put an end to the killing spree,"
"Security in the area is intact. But there
are isolated incidents. Those incidents
continue to happen," Police Spokesperson SSP
Ranjith Gunasekara told The Sunday Leader.
The killing spree comes in the wake of
growing divisions between Chandrakanthan and
the Leader of TMVP Vinayagamoorthi
Muralitharan. There were unconfirmed reports
that said that Chandrakanthan now based in
Trincomalee has been unable to visit his
home base of Pesalai, north of Batticaloa
due to security fears.
Indian attacks seal
dead winter for Sri Lanka tourism
By Nirmala Kannangara
The Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka
(THASL) expects the attacks on Indian hotels
and their guests to have a severe fall out
on the country's leisure industry,
President, THASL, Srilal Miththapala told
The Sunday Leader.
Following the global financial crisis
already the THASL has received many
cancellations in forward bookings during the
past few months. The latest Indian situation
has further frightened the hoteliers in the
country as the upcoming festive season would
see a clear decline in tourist arrivals
according to Miththapala.
"Although certain people try to say that the
Indian incident would boost Sri Lanka's
tourism industry it would not be so.
Definitely it will affect our leisure
industry badly and no more forward bookings
could be expected for the season," added
According to Miththapala, Sri Lanka's
tourism industry has had to face three major
setbacks now, which would be hard to deal
with. "From one side our internal conflicts
have left the industry suffering badly and
secondly the global financial crisis has
added to the local situation. With the
latest Indian attacks in Mumbai now the
entire Asian region has become a no go zone
for leisure seekers and those who wanted to
visit the country during the upcoming
festive season would now change their
destinations in fear," Miththapala stated.
However when asked as to what action the
THASL has taken to ensure the safety of
their guests, Miththapala said that after
the meeting with President Mahinda Rajapakse
following the Indian attacks, the President
has assured the THASL of government security
to strengthen the protection of hotels.
"We have decided to open only one entrance
in each hotel in order to provide maximum
protection. The President has assured us of
security by personnel in civvies and also we
are planning to get down security devices to
tighten the security arrangements," he
However Miththapala reiterated the necessity
of hotel staff and guests to be vigilant to
face any situation and added that although
the industry is suffering immensely there is
a silver lining at the end of the tunnel as
the country is heading towards a military
victory over the LTTE.
By Risidra Mendis
The Environment and Natural Resources
Minister came under criticism by UNP MP
P.Harrison who accused him of adding more
garbage to the pile at Bloemendhal Road in
Commenting on the rising garbage dump at
Bloemendhal Road Harrison said that when
Ranawaka took over as Environment Minister
he promised he would clear the garbage dump
within a month.
"The Minister had not even completed a month
in office when he made this statement. We
thought that Ranawaka would solve the
garbage problem which former Environment
Ministers Maithripala Sirisena and
A.H.M.Fowzie couldn't do. However the
garbage dump at Bloemendhal Road has only
increased in size," Harrison said.
He added that the improper disposal of solid
waste has caused health issues in the
country resulting in diarrhoea and dengue
among others. "It is the responsibility of
the Environment Minister to create awareness
among school children and find a speedy
solution to the garbage problem," Harrison
In response to Harrison's statement Ranawaka
said by 2012 a proper mechanism will be in
place to solve the solid waste problem. "For
the past 60 years the solid waste problem
remained unsolved in the country. The UNP
couldn't solve the garbage problem but is
now criticising the government. The
Environment Ministry has implemented many
programmes with the intention of solving the
garbage problem. At present there are seven
compost manufacturing companies in the
country. The Ministry will increase this
number to 14 companies soon," Ranawaka
Campaign to create
awareness on violence against women
By Risidra Mendis
The Gender Based Violence Forum (GBV) has
branded 19 buses with the GBV Forum slogan
"Violence Against Women Hurts Us All - Act
Now - End Violence Against Women" to
commemorate the International Day for the
Elimination of Violence Against Women which
fell on November 25.
November 25 is also the first day of the 16
days of activities against gender based
violence against women, which will continue
till December 10.
The Sunday Leader learns that the reported
cases of gender based violence against women
is on the increase. However whether these
figures have risen due to the increased
incidents of gender based violence or due to
the efforts of many organisations
encouraging women to speak out against these
crimes remains unclear.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader Facilitator,
GBV Forum, Bimali Ameresekere said the 19
buses would ply on the routes of Kandy,
Galle, Negombo, Pettah, Gampaha, Pettah,
Mathugama, Horana, Mathugama, Kalutara,
Puttalam, Tabbowa, Kandy, Pilimatalawa,
Alawathugoda, Nuwara Eliya, Galle, Matara,
Kantalai, Trincomalee, Vavuniya, and
Akkaraipattu-Pottuvil among others.
The GBV Forum has launched this campaign to
create awareness on the violence against
women among the public. As part of the
campaign stickers with this slogan were
pasted inside buses and on trishaws by GBV
livid over fishy deal
By Nirmala Kannangara
The alleged unloading of fish free of charge
at the Galle Commercial Harbour from a
vessel belonging to the wife of a senior
minister has resulted in a huge revenue loss
to the Fisheries Ministry, Convener, All
Ceylon General Fisheries Federation and JVP
Parliamentarian Premasiri Manage alleged.
Manage told The Sunday Leader that the
Fisheries Ministry has calculated the loss
of revenue to be over Rs.1,500 million for
the past four years and as a result the
Fisheries Corporation is now running at a
loss and is finding it difficult to even pay
the salaries of its employees.
"According to the Fisheries Act, unloading
fish from all foreign vessels has to be
carried out at the Modera Fisheries Harbour
enabling the authorities to recover the
unloading charges, anchorage fees and the
purchase of the mandatory 'C' grade fish at
a price determined by the Fisheries Ministry
at one place. At present there are nine
registered shipping companies that bring
fish ashore and out of those nine vessels -
'Bon Bridge' is owned by the wife of a
minister from down south," added Manage.
According to Manage since the Fisheries
Corporation charges Rs.20 from each kilo of
fish that is unloaded at Modera, the
minister in order to avoid any payment to
the government, has got illegal permission
from the then Fisheries Corporation
Director General, enabling him to get the
authority to unload the fish from his wife's
vessel at the Galle Commercial Harbour.
"With this course of action the government
has lost more than Rs.1500 million over the
past four years as the fish was unloaded at
the Galle Commercial harbour free of charge.
We also learn that the other eight foreign
vessels too drop off their stockpile to 'Bon
Bridge' in mid seas to be unloaded at Galle,"
However Manage said that the former
fisheries minister in the Chandrika
Kumaratunga government in 2004, Chandrasena
Wijesinghe after realising the damage caused
to the industry due to the free unloading of
fish at Galle Commercial harbour, had
instituted legal action against Mahinda
"It was three weeks earlier that the
judiciary ordered Wijesekera to pay
compensation to the Fisheries Corporation
when he was found guilty. But Wijesekera is
yet to make the payments to the Fisheries
Corporation," Manage alleged.
However Minister Wijesekera told The Sunday
Leader that he has filed an appeal in the
Appeal Court against the judgment and said
he had to get special approval for the
vessel 'Bon Bridge' to enter the Galle
Commercial Harbour as it could not enter the
Modera Fisheries Harbour as it was a
commercial vessel and not a small fishing
"There were no facilities for 'Bon Bridge'
at Modera and that was the reason I had to
get permission to unload our catch at the
Galle Commercial Harbour. However we have
appealed against the court ruling in the
Appeal Court," Wijesekera said.
The Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries told
The Sunday Leader that he was unable to
comment on the issue and requested to speak
to the chairman or the general manager,
Fisheries Corporation. All attempts to
contact the two officials failed.